What is Glaucoma?


Glaucoma is a common eye disorder that damages the optic nerve, which sends images from the eye to the brain. It is not one singular condition, but an entire group of disorders with a common label. Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in the United States and chances of suffering from glaucoma increase with age. However, loss of sight due to glaucoma is preventable when the condition is caught and treated early by your eye doctor. 

What Causes Glaucoma?

One of the highest risk factors for developing glaucoma is high fluid pressure inside the eye (intraocular pressure). When clear liquid (aqueous humor) flows in and out of the eye at an uneven rate due to fluid pressure within the inner eye, the optic nerve is damaged. Higher intraocular pressures lead to a higher risk of glaucoma. They also lead to a higher likelihood of developing glaucoma at a faster rate. Other risk factors that could cause glaucoma include:

  • Family history
  • Being of African-American, Asian, Hispanic, Irish, Russian, and/or of Scandinavian descent
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Previous eye injury
  • Prolonged steroid use

Types of Glaucoma

There are many kinds of glaucoma, all of which lead to damage in the optic nerve. Of the types of glaucoma, the two main classifications are open angle glaucoma and closed angle glaucoma.

Open angle glaucoma is more common and will often go undetected because the rise in intraocular pressure tends to be slow and mild. As a result, there are usually no initial symptoms. As open angle glaucoma progresses, vision worsens so slowly that the true condition might not be noticeable for a long time. However, if the condition is left untreated by an eyed doctor it could eventually cause blindness.

Closed angle glaucoma is far less common than open angle glaucoma, but the damage to the optic nerve can be faster and more severe. Closed angle glaucoma is easier to detect because it generally presents more easily recognizable symptoms (as listed below). 

Symptoms of Glaucoma

  • Blurry vision
  • Headaches
  • Seeing rainbows
  • Seeing spotty light
  • Severe eye pain
  • Nausea and vomiting

Diagnosing Glaucoma

The early stages in most cases of glaucoma are undetectable because they present no giant symptoms. Experts estimate that only half of the people who currently have glaucoma realize that they are affected. As such, the best way to diagnose glaucoma, and thus prevent the disorder from worsening, is by undergoing regular eye exams with your eye doctor. 

During an exam at our Boca Raton, FL office, your eye doctor will measure your intraocular pressure, evaluate any nerve damage, check the drainage angle of your eye, and test your vision. Photographs of your optic nerves may be taken in order to view the appearance of your optic nerves as well. Through these tests you will be able to know for sure whether or not you currently have glaucoma.

When to Get Glaucoma Screenings:

Like so many other eye-related disorders, early diagnosis of glaucoma is essential. Because the early stages of glaucoma have no grand, noticeable symptoms, regular exams with your eye doctor are recommended for everyone, even those who have no eye-related problems. See below for our advice on how often to see an eye doctor for a screening.

  • Before age 40: every 2-4 years
  • Ages 40-54: every 1-3 years
  • Ages 55-64: every 1-2 years
  • Ages 65+: every year

Glaucoma Treatments

While there is no cure for glaucoma—and vision cannot be restored once it’s been lost—many medications and procedures exist to slow the disease or stop it altogether. Some such methods for treatment include:

  • Medication such as pressure lowering agents drops
  • Laser procedures
  • Incisional surgery such as a trabeculectomy or goniotomy
  • Shunts/implants

Contact Your Boca Raton, FL Eye Doctor Today

Early detection of glaucoma is important so that it can be treated and its progression can be slowed and halted. For the good of your eyes’ health, keep regular appointments with your Boca Raton, FL eye doctor so that no problem can go unnoticed. Regular exams with an eye doctor are the best way to detect glaucoma and prevent damage to your vision. If you are from the Boca Raton, Palm Beach County, Delray Beach, or Boyton Beach area and are at higher risk for developing glaucoma, please contact the Mitchell Eye Center or schedule an appointment with us online. We look forward to seeing you in our office soon.